Airbnb Host Interview: Southern Shangri-La
Earlier this month I had the awesome opportunity of staying in this multi-unit home in Charleston, SC where I got to not only experience staying at the ever-so-popular Southern Shangri-La, but also interview Airbnb hosts, William and Sydney.
Let me first start off by saying that ever since I started photographing/blogging about Airbnbs, this cute bohemian/surf-inspired Airbnb has been on my bucket list of Airbnbs to visit - so it was a dream staying here (to say the least). The Airbnb that caught my eye was actually their original Airbnb on Bogard Street, but since then they’ve opened up 4 more units on Coming Street, which is where I stayed at during this visit!
I stayed in Unit C, but I kid you not when I say that any and all of their units are AMAZING and I will be recommending them to all my friends and family who are planning on making a trip to Charleston!
I’m so excited to be sharing this interview with you all, and I hope you all find their interview as inspiring as I found it to be!
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What inspired you both to start hosting?
We've always used pretty much only Airbnbs when traveling and always (well, almost always - haha) had the most amazing experience! Personally, we've always really enjoyed staying in shared spaces or spots with multiple travelers on the same property. We've met so many people and we’ve made so many friends from all over the world that we still keep in touch with today.
When we got home from our year plus of living in Australia we were looking for something to do more long term/something that still meshed with our love for travel and allowed us the flexibility to scoot off every now and then. Hosting folks who were coming to visit the city we love (and the city we grew up in) just kind of seemed like a natural fit! So, we started looking for a house that we could live in and rent... and that's when we found our first home and our first Airbnb! Not sure whether we really intended to 100% get into the Airbnb “business” as a full time gig, but either way it just sort of clicked and we wanted to keep it rolling! That’s when we found our second spot on Coming Street and opened up 4 new apartments.
What was one of the biggest challenges of starting your Airbnbs?
It has been absolutely insane managing multiple Airbnbs while still trying to set up others. We listed each apartment as it was finished, so then managing our guests became the priority and each subsequent apartment took a little bit longer and longer as we got busier and busier.
Our first Airbnb on Bogard St came so easy to us and we did everything ourselves…from renovations, to cleaning, and management. But with a total of 5 apartments, it really has been a balancing act, and one of the hardest things has been getting used to handing over a little control.
We have definitely learned that sometimes it's best to just ask for help or to hire someone else to get it done so that we can move on to the next task. For example…can I hang that wallpaper in the hallway? Probably, and I would enjoy trying to sort it out! But there are so many other things I could get accomplished in that day it took me to experiment with wallpaper, that we’ve come to learn it was best to find someone else to do it (not to mention, it would probably look a lot better!).
Do you have a favorite piece of decor in your spaces, and what makes it special to you? Any cool stories behind any of the pieces you have?
This is a loaded question! We have so many favorite things, mainly because so much of it has a story! Most of our decorations were collected during our travels (we've been to 41 different countries and counting!).
Our furniture at Coming Street though, is something we have been pretty stoked about! The last time we were in Bali, we met this guy in the water (surfing) and as William usually does...he struck up a conversation with this guy. Turns out this guy and his girlfriend had their own furniture business and have worked with manufacturers in Indonesia to furnish boutique hotels. At this point, Coming Street wasn't even on our radar, but we though it was such an interesting business!
When we started putting everything together at Coming Street, we actually almost forgot about them as a resource! We weren't really sure if this would be a big enough project for them, but the timing ended up working perfect! So…that's how we really lucked out on getting amazing, custom furniture from Indonesia - all because of surfing!
Do you all stay at Airbnbs when you travel - if so, what has been your favorite Airbnb to stay at and why?
We always stay in Airbnbs, and we don't even have to think twice about what our favorite Airbnb is...London's Homestay in Bali.
After we lived in Australia, we had about 3 months where we planned to travel all over Southeast Asia. Our first stop was Bali and on about the 3rd day we found London's Homestay. 3 months later…there we were, still hogging the only AC room at London Homestay and doing everything we could to avoid leaving! The main reason we never left was 100% because of the people. The owners, Kung, Chelssie, and their little daughter, London, became family.
We once traveled to say that we've “been there…or seen this”, but we came to the realization shortly after meeting Kung (and all the special people that London Homestay attracted), that traveling isn't special because of the places you see, but because of the people you meet along the way. We've since been back and count ourselves extremely lucky to have them in our lives.
Sadly, Kung passed away this past year. We often think of him during our day-to-day hosting tasks. There is no doubt that so much of where we are now, we owe to Kung and Chelssie. Not only did they show us the true meaning of hospitality, the “community” atmosphere that they created at London Homestay was nothing short of magical and probably one of our biggest inspirations behind wanting to become Airbnb hosts ourselves.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own Airbnb?
It sounds kind of boring, but the number one thing we would recommend before starting an Airbnb is to look into your local laws. No point in going any further, if starting an Airbnb is technically illegal. But, we've also learned that if you ask the right questions, aren't afraid to badger your zoning department for information, and read the laws thoroughly…you can probably find some way or another that you can legally operate an Airbnb.
We also think that hospitality is the #1 satisfaction factor. Of course it would be ideal to have a sick, renovated to the 9s, perfectly decorated apartment...but as long as you are friendly, personable and go above and beyond at every point - most folks will enjoy themselves! And you might even find some lifelong friends along the way!